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  • Writer's pictureRev. Chris Brademeyer

The Remnant


Remnant

The 5th Sunday after Trinity – 6/30/2024

1 Kings 19:11-21

Rev. Christopher W. Brademeyer

 

That portion from God’s holy Word for consideration this morning is our Old Testament lesson from the First Book of Kings in the nineteenth chapter with special emphasis on verses fourteen through eighteen which read as follows:

 

“He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.””[1]

 

Thus far the Scriptures.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

It is easy to feel like everything is going down the toilet, particularly if you spend a lot of time watching the news or browsing social media. To be fair, things in church are not what they once were. The statistics are staggering concerning how many people have abandoned the Christian religion in the past generation. According to recent articles, not only are more people not going to church as a percentage of the population, but most of those who don’t do not even consider themselves nominally Christian.[2] The same report also shows that most churchgoers feel like perceptions of Christians in the society today are declining quickly as well.[3] In other words, in terms of both numbers and reputation, many people feel like things are getting worse. Some of this is right given the data we see and we cannot dismiss such concerns and worries by simply wishing it to not be the way that it is. Besides these aggregate numbers, we can see the things around us: congregations have closed, churches have compromised the truth, people we love and care about have abandoned the faith.

                In such an environment as this, it is easy to feel alone. It is easy to feel like we are the only ones left who try and be faithful to God. Much like Elijah, we are tempted to hunker down and hide, afraid of those who have despised the Lord, afraid of the social forces that seek to lead us away from God as so many others have been before us. At this point in the history of God’s people Israel, the descendants of Jacob had long been settled in the Promised Land after the events of the Exodus where Moses led them into the wilderness. The period of the Judges was also in the distant past and the Kingdom of Israel had been divided into two parts years ago. The glory days of people like Moses and David and Solmon were a distant memory.  Since the split, the kings of the northern part of what was once a united country now calling itself Israel went from bad to worse. Ahab, who was married to a Phoenician woman named Jezebel, was especially bad. The Phoenicians were the successors of the Canaanites who were in the region when the Israelites showed up and began to conquer the place and they preserved many parts of the Canaanite religion and culture, including the worship of the Canaanite gods. Now Ahab’s wife Jezebel wore the pants in the relationship, as they say, and she promoted the worship of Baal instead of the Lord. Before our passage today, Elijah and Jezebel had a showdown and a little contest was put together to see whether the Lord or Baal was  the true God. Wood was piled up for a sacrifice on two altars. Elijah and the priests of Baal were to call to their respective masters and see which would send fire to consume the sacrifice. Elijah was successful, even after he had doused the wood on his altar with water. And not only did the fire God sent consume the sacrifice, it also consumed the altar and all the water around it! The priests of Baal were put to death for being false prophets and Elijah was vindicated.[4]

                But right after this Elijah was victorious and the Lord was vindicated, Jezebel threatened to kill him and he fled off into the hills and hid himself in a cave. This is where the Lord speaks to the prophet. And Elijah is beside himself with grief. Not even the great victory and miracle of fire from heaven was enough to give him comfort. He cried out, fearing that he was alone, that no one else would be found faithful. God assures Elijah that there is still a remnant in Israel, seven thousand who remained faithful.

                In our readings today is an important reality that we must all take to heart: God makes His church, He preserves it by His Word, as we see illustrated in our Gospel reading by way of the miraculous catch, which is an image of the Church and how we are gathered into it by the Word of God. The Epistle reading reminds us of the content of the teaching and preaching of the Church, that is, the saving Gospel of Christ. And our Old Testament reading reveals two things to us: that God calls men to serve as pastors and that He preserves both pastors and congregations as a faithful remnant for Himself. That is to say, we should never let ourselves get down about the state of affairs. In every age there are always things wrong with sinners and this world of sin. In our age there are several things that are especially noticeable that stand in stark contrast to God’s Word. But in all cases, indeed, in all times and places, God preserves a faithful remnant for Himself by the power of His Word. And that remnant, dear friends in Christ, is all you faithful people who believe and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ who has given Himself for you so that you would have forgiveness, life, and salvation.

                And it does not matter if Ahab or Jezebel or anyone else comes for us to try to strike us with terror and force us into hiding, we are in Christ. Just as God did not abandon Elijah, so too He does not abandon you the baptized faithful. Christ has saved you and this is no small thing. If God has given His Son to redeem you in body and soul, why would he leave us to suffer unaided in this world? God has give us peace and life and salvation through His Word. He has granted us strength for the day and strength that lasts unto eternity. God does not forget His people, nor will He ever abandon you, His remnant.

 

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

 

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.


[1] 1 Kings 19:14-18 English Standard Version

[4] 1 Kings 18:16-40



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